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Increase Flexibility, Decrease Frustration: A 2e Teen's Story

Updated: May 11, 2022

Twice exceptional students have few forums to express their lived educational experiences. REEL is pleased to launch “Living and Learning 2e,” a new blog series dedicated to giving twice exceptional children, teens, and young adults a place to share their voices.

Chris D. is our first guest blogger. Chris attended several elementary, middle, and high schools in Silicon Valley, both private and public. He wrote this blog as part of a course assignment for a sociology class. His goal is to show some of the challenges twice exceptional and other students may experience in today’s education system.

The Best Teacher You Ever Had

Who was the teacher who really understood you and helped you learn the best?

I don’t think there is a teacher that fits that criteria exactly, but there are some that fit some of the criteria. I would say one of the teachers I had the best results with was Mr. Baker, my year eleven mathematics teacher. This was almost entirely down to one policy—he would accept late homework indefinitely, which allowed me to not fall too far behind and complete all the coursework in my own time. This allowed my grades to reflect my knowledge of the subject. Prior to this, I had continually frustrating experiences where the amount of effort put in, work completed, and content learned was completely disproportionate to my course grade.

There have been other teachers I engaged with for different reasons and while there were things that made their classes more interesting and engaging, such as their passion for the subject and a willingness to occasionally explain more advanced details relevant to the subject, the format of the teaching made the class very difficult and frustrating. This includes lack of clarity on how to complete assignments and an unwillingness to explain, even after class, how to complete work when the assignment was unclear. The willingness to talk in greater depth about subjects is good, but it often cannot happen in class, which is stifling.

From the Inside - What 2e Feels Like

What are things you've experienced in your interior world that the external world might not know about and how has it changed over time?

I would characterize it as frustrating and stressful. It has mostly ended up worse over time. As you get older and enter middle and high school, it’s very easy to fall behind and be caught in a position where it’s impossible to recover. Often there is an unclear assignment format early in the course or it takes some time to grasp the subject matter, but taking the extra time to figure that out, especially if the teacher or professor is not particularly helpful, means you stop being aligned with the course schedule. Another barrier is the bottlenecks that arise in middle and high school; for instance, you take multiple, dense courses that have more time-consuming tasks and assignments due at the same time, which usually leads me into a perpetual state of being behind, especially because often late assignments will be accepted but only with reduced credit. Even more days to turn in assignments doesn’t help with being perpetually behind, which inhibits learning the content and understanding recent assignments, since you’re focused on older work. Skipping over to the current stuff sets you back on the old stuff, permanently diminishing your grade, so the whole experience becomes difficult and not an accurate reflection of my knowledge in the course.

Advice for Parents and Teachers

What are the top things parents or teachers can do to support 2e learners?

For teachers, I’ve found that the early assignments need to be clarified so the formatting for it and later assignments is very well understood. Providing examples of what is expected is very helpful. Also, allow for alternate ways to show content mastery, such as discussion based assessment of the content, so that if I have high marks on all exams, I am not required to go back and complete rote work while the course has moved on to new content. For example, if I’ve scored well on an exam, but am behind in assignments, allow the flexibility to just let me move on, since I’ve shown mastery of the content.

For parents, asking 2E students to prioritize tasks, then complaining about how those tasks are prioritized makes it much harder to concentrate on getting the tasks complete. It’s especially important for parents of 2E students to clearly communicate expectations and priorities to ensure there isn’t a discrepancy in what each party is trying to express.

What’s Next?

What are you looking forward to in the future or what do you hope will happen next for other 2e students?

The recent emphasis on online education could help 2E students who are better served under that model. Online education shows that there is a growing acceptance of alternative teaching methods and can allow for more freedom to work at one’s own pace.

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